Microsoft Japan undertook an employee based campaign where employees worked for 4 days while enjoying a 3 day weekend. As a result, they saw a clear increase in productivity by 40%. This was accompanied by many other positive aspects including saving in energy, better time management, lesser leave application etc.

Well, Japanese Microsoft isn’t the only one who would love a 3-day weekend. The global employee community would welcome this change. A two-day weekend is a mere dream because as soon as you realize that the weekend has arrived, half Saturday has already passed. All you have is a lazy left-over evening and a Sunday to plan a small outing and the Monday has already arrived, just before you could upload the weekend pictures on Instagram.

A hectic life schedule has embarked us all on a journey, where we constantly urge for a vacation from daily life. However, the world’s biggest software manufacturer, Microsoft’s Japan office had things sorted for their employees.

Japan ‘Karoshi’ trend

Japanese employees can feel the need for this trend acutely as Japan is a country which is known around the world for its overtime working hours.

Generally, the working hours for every company lie between 40 to 50 hours a week, depending on the job and pay-scale. As per government studies conducted in 2016, around 25% of all the Japanese companies require their employees to work more than 80 hours of overtime every month. This is around 20 hours of overtime every week. This means that these employees are habitual to work 30% to 45% over time. Most of the Japanese employee community is habitual and fed-up of this trend. Japanese even has the term “karoshi,” which translates to “death by overwork.”

Microsoft Japan’s Campaign

As a result, to overcome the culture of overwork, Microsoft Japan undertook an experiment. In August, they gave 2,300 employees three-day weekends for five weeks straight. They called it the Work-Life Choice Challenge. They called it a ‘Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer 2019’ under their ‘Working Reform Project’.

The challenge was started with a hope that employees would turn out to be more efficient & effective during their shortened workweek. Also, they would return to work on Monday feeling more refreshed after a three-day weekend.

Apart from experimenting with the behaviour of employees, Microsoft also wanted to collect data to measure the effectiveness of the adjusted schedule. They wanted to crunch the numbers understand whether it was worth giving them extra time off to employees.

The Impact

A normal employer would think that this would have declined the market sales or the turnover of the services by a great number as the employees are working one whole day lesser. However, the results are just contrary and are as expected by Microsoft.

The reports just came in and to their merry, Microsoft Japan proudly says that they saw great results from shortening the workweek. Employees were vastly more productive. They were more efficient with their meetings. They loved working lesser hours during the week and enjoying long weekends.

As told by officials, the productivity of the employees got increased by 40% after implementing this project. Reportedly, not only did the employee’s productivity increased but they also take 25% lesser leaves during the month. Not only this, the electricity consumption got reduced by 23% as well.

Factors for Success

As per the officials, the major factors that influenced the programme to turn optimistic & increase the employee’s productivity were meeting the changes. During a four-day workweek, shorter and fewer meetings were conducted. Many meetings were conducted virtually to save time. The time crunch made employees work effectively and efficiently, thus increasing productivity while saving costs at the same time.

39.9 per cent increase in productivity.

The campaign success lies in the increased productivity of employees. As measured by the data analytics, sales per employee increased 39.9% per cent in August 2019 as compared to August 2018.

Cost savings in terms of electricity and office resources.

Since the office was kept closed for one extra day per week, used 23.1 per cent less electricity. Also, employees printed 58.7 per cent fewer pages.

The positive response from employees.

Microsoft employees responded with great positivity. Not only did they enjoyed the three-day long weekend. But they also enjoyed working at a 40% higher efficiency. A huge majority of around 92.1% of the employees voted in favour of ‘4-days a week’ work pattern. As a result, Microsoft Japan is already planning on to bringing back this work pattern in the next august. It’s yet to be seen if they will offer this perk year-round.